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Citizens grill Park Rapids City Council about selling water to pipeline project

Residents gave the Park Rapids City Council tough feedback about Enbridge's ongoing use of the city water supply while residential drought restrictions are in place.

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Kent Brock asks the Park Rapids City Council on Monday, Aug. 10, 2021 why the city is selling water to Enbridge during a drought and whether they know what it is being used for. Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise
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PARK RAPIDS, Minn. — The Park Rapids City Council took some heat from residents this week about the city selling its water to the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline replacement project during the summer drought.

“Everybody I talk to about this, or bring this to their light, cannot believe this is happening,” said homeowner Kent Brock at the Tuesday, Aug. 10, council meeting. “What I’m talking about is the pipeline. I’m talking about Enbridge sucking water out of your hydrants.”

He noted that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources stopped the project’s water usage permits due to the ongoing drought. Meanwhile, he said, he has seen three hydrants in the city with hoses and meters to supply Line 3 trucks.

After looking at past meeting agendas, Brock said he didn’t see an approval for Enbridge to take water. He said he has watched 4,000-gallon trucks filling with water and followed one of them to a pipeline “man camp” in the Backus, Minnesota, area.

“Do you not care where the water’s going?” he asked. “Could they not have gotten water from Backus for their man camp?”

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While a city staff member admitted selling the water, Brock said, the city has restricted water use for residents.

“Yes, we are selling water at this point in time,” City Administrator Angel Weasner said, in response to a prompt from Mayor Ryan Leckner. “Commercial businesses are allowed to purchase water, just like residential citizens are allowed to purchase water.”

She said the state enacted the current drought phase and declared lawn sprinkling, power-washing houses, car washing and recreational water uses to be non-essential. This prompted the council to restrict lawn watering to once a week, she said.

Weasner admitted the city sells water to Enbridge at a commercial bulk rate, “but we are still charging them for every drop that they purchase.”

Pausing in the doorway of the council chambers, Brock asked if there isn’t a concern about Enbridge taking millions of gallons of water. He left while discussion was underway.

“There is not a water shortage in Park Rapids or in our aquifers,” Leckner replied.

“We monitor the aquifer every day,” Public Works Superintendent Scott Burlingame confirmed. “That particular aquifer that the city of Park Rapids is a part of is very well fed. I’ve seen years worse than this, as far as drought, and we haven’t had an issue.”

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Florence Hedeen warned the Park Rapids City Council on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021 that today's decisions will impact the climate for seven generations. Robin Fish / Park Rapids Enterprise

Resident Florence Hedeen told the council that for her, the water issue leads to the issue of climate change.

“What we are doing in our system of operation is really, really going to blow in the face of generations from now, to the seventh, to beyond,” she said. “The decisions that we make about water affect our children’s children’s children’s children’s children. … It isn’t just a pipeline. It is a change of the possibilities of the future of our children.”

Hedeen said she uses a minimum amount of water by choice because it is a precious resource.

Mentioning impacts on the rivers and fish populations, she concluded, “Climate change, from now into the future, affects not just us but our children to the seventh generation. Please keep that in mind.”

Weasner thanked everyone for their comments and said she is always willing and able to answer questions.

Council member Erika Randall also encouraged members of the public concerned about an issue to reach out to city staff for accurate information.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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